What Is a Stress Disorder?
The stress disorders, posttraumatic stress disorder, and acute stress disorder are defined as the development of debilitating anxiety and other severe symptoms following a traumatic event, either one that you have personally experienced or witnessed. The experience is either a real or symbolic life or death situation, a situation that can end in either serious personal injury, or threaten your nature and being. The main characteristic of stress disorders is having feelings of extreme fear, horror, and helplessness at what is occurring, and then experiencing recurrent mental images of the event that frighten and disturb you. The kinds of incidences that can lead to the development of a stress disorder include terrorist attacks, military combat, and rape.
Shell shock was changed to many other names, including neurasthenia, battle exhaustion, nervous exhaustion, hysteria, and battle shock. Later, the medical community realized that these symptoms also applied to anyone who had experienced traumatic events, and in 1980, the stress disorders were included in the DSM-IV.
Prior to the term postttraumatic stress disorder, the term “shell shock” was used during World War I to describe the specific mental symptoms soldiers suffered due to physical causes, specifically, the effects of an explosion, or of being buried by an explosion. Eventually, shell shock came to describe all the emotional symptoms associated with combat.